Domestic new vehicle sales excluding minicars edged down 0.7 percent from the previous year to total 3.9 million units in fiscal 2005 — which ended Friday — due to weak passenger car sales, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Monday.

Shipments dropped for the third consecutive year, ending shy of the 4 million mark for two straight years. The 2005 figure was off about 2 million units from the peak reached in 1990 and the lowest in 20 years.

Minivehicle sales, in contrast, rose 3.6 percent to 1.95 million units, increasing three years in a row, and reached a record high for the first time in six years thanks to brisk sales of new models, according to data released by the Japan Mini Vehicles Association.

Overall vehicle sales including the mini category increased about 40,000 units to about 5.86 million, rising for the first time in two years.

Higher gasoline prices appear to have caused nonminicar producers to lose business to the makers of minivehicles, but sales also seem to have fallen presumably because consumers spent more on products other than cars, said officials with the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

In the nonmini category, sales of passenger cars declined 1.6 percent to 3.34 million whereas truck sales went up 5.4 percent to 557,228 as users replaced their old fleets with more ecologically friendly vehicles to meet tougher environmental regulations.

Among major manufacturers, Honda Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. recorded modest sales increases while Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. saw lower shipments.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp., which is in the process of a major turnaround drive, saw its sales surge 18.4 percent.

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